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In the early 1860s, as the Civil War erupted, these communities took up the banner of the Cinco De Mayo celebration as a way to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy. Today, in the United States, Americans celebrate Mexican-American heritage and pride annually on May 5th.
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In 1861, the Battle of Puebla pitched 6,000 French troops against a small, under-supplied Mexican force of 2,000 men. Not expecting to win the campaign, the Mexican army overcame the French in under a day. While the battle didn’t win the war, the victory held great symbolism for Mexico during the Franco-Mexican War and buoyed the army throughout the conflict. Each year, Mexico commemorates the day with celebrations across the country, though it is not a federal holiday.
On June 7, 2005, the United States Congress issued a Concurrent Resolution. The resolution invited the President of the United States to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe Cinco de Mayo with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
Celebrations surrounding the observance in the United States take on a significance beyond that in Mexico. They include displaying banners and events highlighting Mexican culture, music, and regional dancing. School districts also hold special events to educate students about its historical significance. In the U.S., commercial interests the day by celebrating Mexican products and services with an emphasis on beverages, food, and music.
According to José Alamillo, professor of ethnic studies at Washington State University in Pullman, a 2006 study found more than 150 official events celebrating the day.